July 23, 2009

Hampton Fancher Story


Have you read Castaneda’s books at all? The first two are really interesting. That guy Don Juan, he’s one of these Mexicans. Uneducated, brilliant. I lived next door to one down there once. He got me so good. This guy, he was an Indian, a completely uneducated man – a peasant, a peon, he doesn’t even have a home. I had this little villa on a lake – in fact she wrote about it, Sybille Bedford, it’s right in Xicotepec, on the west end of Chapala. I had rented this place for a few months. And I would see him once in a while; there was some acreage next to me on the waterfront. He had a little hut made out of grass and sticks, and once in a while I’d see him at the water’s edge, and I wondered how he lived, though I didn’t want to get to know him. Someone in the village told me that he was a witch, and that made me curious. Because he was like a little Indian guy, ancient.

One time I saw him digging a hole in the ground to get some water from the lake so the children there, little ragamuffins, could bathe. I went down to that place with a friend of mine who was visiting. I told my friend, “Here’s my camera, I’m going to talk to him, shoot a picture that you see is interesting.” So I go and I’m talking to him, and he’s very deferential, very humble, soft spoken, not a man of words. And I’m asking him a few questions and Joe, my friend, can’t make the camera work, He’s telling me in English, “I can’t get the camera to work.” I didn’t want to make a big thing about it in front of the old man – Don Jose – so I say, “Let me try it. You talk to him.” I took the camera and it wouldn’t cock. Then the shutter worked – but not when I was pointing it at him. Finally I got it to work, and I said to my friend, “Here, try it.” And Don Jose says to me, “You trying to take a picture of me?”

He was barefoot. “Here, cross this line,” he said. He goes like this, in the sand. So I cross the line, and he says, “Now tell him to take a picture.” Click – it worked.

Then I asked him in Spanish, “Tu eres un brujo, verdad?” You’re a witch, aren’t you?

And he said, “No, I’m not a witch. The witch lives up on the hill, in the jungle. Look what he did to me.” He opened up his shirt, and there was this horrible burn scar across his belly. I don’t believe in witches, but I’m fascinated by this guy. He’s got this warmth, this intelligence on his face. I liked him. So that was that. I would see him once in a while, I’d wave at him, but we don’t talk.

When I got back to civilization, I had the film developed: it was all black. But that’s not the story.

It’s the night I’m leaving, and the whole trip has been a disaster. I was trying to write and it wasn’t working, it didn’t work at all. I had used all the money I had, and it was the last night. I was sitting in front of a Smith-Corona, and I started to cry. I had my face in my hands. I wanted to die; I wanted to kill myself. I’m thinking, I can’t go back to California. I have nothing. I’m in despair. And it’s, like, twelve o’clock at night.

Now, Don Jose goes to bed when the sun goes down, in his little hut. But I look up and through my window I seem him on the other side of the foliage, and it got me – what’s he doing awake? He was turned away, I could only see the back of his head. I went to the window, and he was just standing there. I went outside and I said, “Don Jose!” And he looked at me, and he was stricken. His face looked terrible. I said, “What’s wrong?” and he says, “I’m nothing, I’m shit!”

“What do you mean?” I said.

“What does your father do?” he asked.

I said, “He’s a doctor.”

“He’s a doctor, he went to school. Has he got a car?”

“Oh yeah, he has a car – he has two.”

“Has he got a television?”

“Yeah, he’s got a television.”

“He’s got a home?”


“He’s a doctor. He’s a great man.”

“No, no, no. He’s not a great man.”

He said, “Well, he’s something. I’m nothing!”

I said, “Don Jose, you are wrong! You are one of the greatest people I’ve ever met. My father… my father is a drunk.” He would commit suicide a year later. I said, “My father doesn’t know who he is. He can’t live. You have knowledge, you have wisdom, you understand everything, you understand the earth, you see things, you see through everything, you’re brilliant.” And I kept talking to him, and he goes like this – “Really? Is that true?”

And I said, “Oh, Don Jose, you’re so lucky not to have a television.”

And he said, “Oh, I think I can sleep now – thank you, thank you!” And he went into his little hut. And I was transformed. I felt fine. I felt like a million bucks! I went back into the house and it hit me: he did that. He saw, he knew I was in trouble, and he knew how to get me out of it. He knew that if he could get me to love something outside of myself, to love him, I’d be okay.

- Hampton Fancher


July 11, 2009

Notes on Literature (Unfinished Manifesto)


- Vulnerable Writing, moments of jarring tenderness, that something (but what exactly?) is at risk, that in the writing itself there is a sense of risk, the writer does not take a safe position high above the action but is down in the fucking middle of it all, hands dirty, against (yet still unavoidably complicit with) the strong complexity of the worlds stupidity, cruelty and incompetence. Critical, yet in league with curiosity and joy.

- An open vessel that lets everything in: every kind of research (to be used for both quotation and plagiarism but nothing in between), things read, heard, seen, done, thought, suffered. The narrative does not exclude any kind of material, the narrative is a giant magnet that draws every kind of material towards itself.

- Not particularly autobiographical. Bringing oneself, ones entire self, all of ones observations and understanding of the world, headlong into the task of fiction. But why not autobiography? Because there is this cursed desire to bring in so much more of the world, to bring in things beyond what one can ever individually experience.

- To reject the “stench of literature”, to know that writing can be so much more than “good”.

- No to straining for effect, yes to insights heartrendingly gained and stated simply, or not so simply. No to the carefully placed phrase, yes to words and sentences that follow one another with the unexpected thrill of great conversation. No to precise historical detail, yes to pure invention and the vividness of the present moment. No to the big revelation at the end of the book, yes to the revelation that books and life are inseparable.

- What does it mean for literature to be “about” something? How can we mean this differently?


July 5, 2009

Writing can be more than good. (Ariana Reines quotes, pt 2)


I am speaking clearly because I am going to explain why sometimes THE COW speaks clearly and why sometimes it is a voluptuary, a vat of mushy ideals and disgusting feelings. The reason is that I am often a voluptuary, a vat of mushy ideas and disgusting feelings, and I have resented the cleanliness and elegance of tight and perfect writing. I have felt that writing should be dirtier and more excessive. I still feel this way. Often. Not all the time. A person has the right to feel in many different ways.

Writing can be more than good.

- Ariana Reines

Sometimes it is factually and rigorously impossible to tell it like it is, and that is not because of some relativism or soft-headed deconstruction, that is because some things are many things at once, and this is exhausting and terrifying, and very important. Books must understand this in their very making.

- Ariana Reines

Every time people say something is raw and simple and tells it like it is and gives you the unvarnished truth and everything, people are playing themselves. People want to have an experience of the raw truth, and some things are more intense and greater than others, but nothing is wholly raw, nothing is the plain and pure truth. Style in literature can make itself sound like it is the plain and pure truth and this is because the author wants to clobber you with the authority of the plain and pure truth he or she is emitting. Urgency and sincerity are real. But when people start talking bullshit about “a style stripped of artifice” they are talking bullshit. Style is by definition artificial. Much more importantly, writing’s artificial. Eating and talking and crapping and fucking and dying are natural.

- Ariana Reines

From: http://www.actionyes.org/issue6/reines/reines-sucking.html


July 3, 2009

Ariana Reines quotes


I want to say something about bad writing. I'm proud of my bad writing. Everyone is so intelligent lately, and stylish. Fucking great. I am proud of Philip Guston's bad painting, I am proud of Baudelaire's mamma's boy goo goo misery. Sometimes the lurid or shitty means having a heart, which's something you have to try to have. Excellence nowadays is too general and available to be worth prizing: I am interested in people who have to find strange and horrible ways to just get from point a to point b.

- Ariana Reines

One of The Cow's most pressing concerns was NOT to have a single style, not to settle upon a correct way of speaking itself, to renounce the possibility of its own completeness, to renounce correctness too.

- Ariana Reines

From: http://thomasmoronic.blogspot.com/2007/06/ariana-reines-interview.html


July 1, 2009



I decided I wanted to spend less time making shows and more time writing books. This decision was something like: performance feels a bit dead to me, let’s change careers and see what happens. And yet practically the moment I made this mental shift, as soon as I began to take this decision a bit more seriously, something changed. It wasn’t precisely that I couldn’t write anymore, though it’s also true that writing itself has become more difficult. It was more like: something within the writing hardened, became more (but I’m not exactly sure if this is right word) rigid. My writing was no longer as loose or free. It was as if I could now feel in the choice of words and syntax that it was no longer something I just did in my spare time for fun. It had become more careful, more crafted, more professional. And yet, in this sense, ‘professionalism’ is everything I hate about writing, about art. The writing that moves me most is always so vulnerable, written ‘for oneself and for strangers’, anarchic, surprising, (surprising both to the reader and to the author), full of loose ends and unanswerable questions. Perhaps I am only in a sad mood, but these days as I write, or think, I can feel these qualities slipping away. I can see them in the distance, yet find it more and more difficult to reach out towards them. Of course, all of this most likely has something to do with aging. But the ways in which one must, to a certain extent, remain amateur in order to stay alive, they have never felt more dear.